Mariners notebook: Catchers preparing for new rules

Feb 24, 2014, 9:33 AM | Updated: 10:45 am

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – Word out of the Grapefruit League Monday morning is MLB is about to announce a rule banning home-plate collisions. While the exact parameters of the rule are not yet known, Mariners catchers have been preparing in conversation for this to happen.

“Obviously, this is the time where if we can’t take a lane away we have to learn how to do that,” Mike Zunino said. “We don’t want to have to cost the team any runs. We have been in talks trying to constantly figure out the best way so when the time comes we are prepared.”

John Buck was on an MLB Players Association panel that looked into the situation. Heading into the discussion he had one view. He left the meeting with another.

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“It’s trying to make the game safer but also not jeopardize the integrity,” Mariners catcher John Buck said of the possibility of MLB banning home-plate collisions. (AP)

“(MLBPA president Tony Clark) said, ‘Hey, we need to have your opinion because I guess I am more of the old-school thought,’ ” Buck said. “Originally, I didn’t want this rule, I thought that being an exciting play and stuff. Not close minded but very like, ‘Alright, I want to get into this more.’ “

According to Buck, the panel included those inclined to be more old school in their approach like himself and Russell Martin as well as those who have been impacted by collisions at the plate like Buster Posey and Mike Matheny. Posey was lost for the season after Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins came in hard at home plate in 2011. It was an ugly but clean collision according to Buck, who just happened to have an up-close view of the play.

“I was literally on deck when that happened and in my opinion I didn’t think it was dirty,” he said. “But there is interpretation from three or four angles and what we are trying to do, whether it is dirty or not, is eliminate that particular play where he would have had to slide and then Buster doesn’t get busted up, whether it is legal or not. That instance there, (if there is a rule) both players are healthy in that play the way it happened. It’s trying to make the game safer but also not jeopardize the integrity.”

The catchers are anxious to hear exactly what the rule is, what they can and cannot do and what the runner can and cannot do. How much or how they can block the plate is key.

“There’s definitely some grey area,” Zunino said. “We have been raising questions. What happens in certain situations? What happens if we get the ball early enough to take away the base path?”

It will be an adjustment, and the aim is to not have to think about that adjustment in the heat of battle.

“That is the toughest thing to break because everything we have been doing up until now, getting our body into position, is instinctual because we have done it so much,” Zunino said. “So I think that is the biggest thing we have to do. Get enough reps now to get it to where we don’t have to think about it in games.”

While the transition may be uncomfortable at first, both players realize it is about keeping all players out of the way of unnecessary harm.

“Listening to Matheny and Buster and listening to everybody as a whole I think it made me realize that for the game overall to have something implemented to where there is a structure to keep everyone safe is best for the players,” Buck said. “To hear Matheny really changed my thought. Hearing him about how it would have probably changed his career, probably prolonged it a little bit and as much education we are getting on head injuries it’s hard to ignore those facts and be stubborn and say I like blocking the plate. That becomes kind of ignorant. What makes it the correct way is now the question.”

Zunino agrees.

“They are trying to protect guys,” he said. “You can’t be upset about that but at the same time we are just going to have to adapt our game to keep everybody safe.”

Notes

• In case you missed it (and if you are on Twitter you most likely know what that means. If you are not on Twitter, you should be. Follow me @shannondrayer), the Mariners have given Taijaun Walker a couple of days off from throwing. I expected he would throw a bullpen Sunday and he did not. I talked to Walker and pitching coach Rick Waits about this. The Mariners are still taking things very slow with Walker.

• The Latin American Mariners have joined the Venezuelans and tweeted out another call for peace in Venezuela.

• Rick Rizzs, Aaron Goldsmith and Kevin Cremin are due to arrive in camp Monday, which means …

• The first “Cactus League Report” of the spring will be broadcast from the Salty Senorita Tuesday. The show will tape from 7-9 p.m. in Peoria (which is one hour ahead of Seattle) and air from 7-9 PST that night on 710 ESPN Seattle. If you are in the area stop by and join us. Guests scheduled to appear at the Salty Senorita include general manager Jack Zduriencik, infielders Brad Miller and Kyle Seager, pitchers Stephen Pryor and Erasmo Ramirez and Larry Stone of The Seattle Times.

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